Monday, April 2, 2012

Parking Deck Receives New Solar Panels

The stadium parking deck has been equipped with 24 new solar panels.

“We established…12 electric vehicle charging stations in the stadium parking deck,” said Ray Kirby, electrical engineer for facilities management. “To offset that energy, I’m installing 6.6 kilowatts, or 24 solar panels, on the top of two of the stairwells. There will be 12 panels on each stairwell for a total of 6,600 watts. That’s to offset the energy it’s taking to charge those electric vehicles. We’re trying to minimize our carbon footprint as we grow in some of these parking decks.”

Kirby said the electric vehicle charging stations were installed in the parking deck about three months ago. Clients who paid Auburn University to have them installed use the stations.

Kirby said the amount of energy taken in by the solar panels in one year is enough to balance the amount of energy used by the charging stations.

The solar panels operate by storing solar energy on an electric grid.

“When the sun’s shining, the energy puts power on the grid, on the electric grid, in that building, so that anything that’s in that building can use that power,” Kirby said. “It doesn’t have to be electric vehicles; anything in that building can use electric power that’s generated by the solar panels.”

At night or on cloudy days when the solar panels can’t take in energy, the solar energy they have already collected will be stored on the electric grid. Mike Kensler, director of Campus Sustainability Operations, said the project was developed as the result of a conversation with Dan King, assistant vice president for facilities management.

“I and Nanette Chadwick, who’s the academic director, we were meeting with Dan King, the assistant vice president for facilities, about how we could partner on some things, and he said that he would be willing to fund a couple of demonstration projects of sustainable practices on campus,” Kensler said. “And so we convened two committees, one that we thought the idea of solar energy would be a good one, and this is what came out of it. We looked at all kinds of different possibilities, but this is the one we chose.”

According to Gail Riese, communciations and marketing specialist for facilities management, the total estimated cost for the installation for the solar panels is $50,000.

According to Kirby, these are not the first solar panels to be installed on campus.

“No, they’re not the first ones, there’s the solar on the transit stop on Mell (St.), the student housing transit stop,” Kirby said. “They’ve just been installed, they’re only a month or so old.”

Kirby said there are plans to install more solar panels if this project is successful.

“Well, this is sort of a pilot project to see how it all works in the parking decks, and if everything goes well then we’ll put additional solar panels on every parking deck, and more on this one, by the way,” Kirby said.”

Kensler said the Office of Sustainability plans to introduce other types of sustainable operations on campus in the future.

“In fact, a biosystems engineering class has developed a proposal to expand that solar array on the parking deck, they have a couple of options, and they also want to include rainwater harvesting, capture of rainwater on it, that can be stored and used for irrigation and also used as a way to manage storm water, which is something else the University has to do,” Kensler said.

“So, that’s just a proposal right now, but it’s, it looks feasible, and that could be something we end up seeking grant money to get funded. So this is just really in some ways sticking our toe in the water about the feasibility, so it will be used, we’ll study it and how it works, and things like that so that we can know how to proceed from here.”


No comments: